Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Judas at jesus' table


I am into the second "phase" of Jen Hatmaker's book 'Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity.' She is right in that this idea of becoming more and more like Christ is some difficult business.

On pp. 62-63 is this gem of a picture of Jesus' bewilderingly beautiful way:
This is what God taught me through Judas at Jesus' table, eating the broken bread that was His body: We don't get to opt out of living on mission because we might not be appreciated. We're not allowed to neglect the oppressed because we have reservations about their discernment. We cannot deny love because it might be despised or misunderstood. We can't withhold social relief because we're not convinced it will be perfectly managed. We can't project our advantaged perspective onto struggling people and expect results available only to the privileged... Most of us know nothing, nothing of the struggles of the poor. We erroneously think ourselves superior, and it is a wonder God would use us at all to minister to His beloved.

Jesus came to the foulest, filthiest place possible (earth), a place full of ungrateful, self-destructive people who would betray Him far more than they'd love Him (a whole planet of Judases). He broke His body for rich people who would curse Him the second their prosperity was endangered. He poured His blood out for those who would take His Word and use it as a bludgeoning tool. He became the offering for people who would slander His name with ferocity, yet His grace was theirs for the asking until they drew their last breaths, even if all they could offer Him was a lifetime of hatred and one moment of repentance.

Whew... yeah... amazing.

Jen continues on the next couple pages...
"Our holy Savior advised us well (Mt. 13): ...We are only qualified to administer mercy, not judgment, because we will pull up many a beautiful stalk of wheat, imagining him a weed."

And interesting thing about this book is that every now and then the author's husband (Brandon) chimes in. He was pastoring in the church, yet it was his wife whom God first started moving/braking in this direction. His contribution to this section that I underlined was:
"I listed how many things I did for others where I benefited nothing; the list was terribly small."

Yep, mine too. Would that I could learn to love people not for what they do for me, but as the beautiful creation they are; that I could do things not in an attempt to gain, but for no reason other than the great grace I have received myself. It seems almost impossible... which, I guess it is, for me.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Super bowl 50 thoughts


This past Sunday was Super Bowl #50. The Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers 24-10. This probably seems a bit hypocritical to follow up yesterdays post with. I guess it is what it is. Below are some random facts and thoughts of mine.
  • We watched with a small group of our friends at Mike's house. It included: Mike, Dave and Joni, Kenny, Greg, and Jane and me. Jane and Joni provided the fixin's for a fabulous baked potato bar. 
  • Oddly enough, Jane and Joni seemed to be much more "into" the game than any of the guys. 
  • It always strikes me as strange how, for as important as this game is, no one ever seems to remember who played in or won even the previous year's Super Bowl. 
  • I can't recall all the commercials, but some that stood out to me: the Doritos sonogram, the Bud Lite "big caucus", and even though it was creepy and few will say they liked it, the Puppy-baby-monkey was among the most memorable.
  • I didn't think it was a very well played game from an offensive standpoint, but man does Denver have a good defense.
  • Speaking of which, I was happy for Wade Phillips. I have always liked Wade. Felt bad for him when he tried to be a head coach, but is there a better coordinator in the game? I imagine his dad is mighty proud of his son.
  • This won't be very popular, but if I'm honest, I'm not a big fan of Peyton Manning. Sure, he is gracious and well versed in dealing with popularity, but I'm thinking he could also be a pretty difficult person to get along with. I think he does what he does to market himself so he can make oodles of money. I didn't care for the Papa Johns and Budweiser plugs after the game (both of which made him more money, even if Budweiser didn't pay him to do it). However, I don't blame him or dislike him either. 
  • I probably have a bigger issue with all the supposed Indianapolis fans who switched their allegiance to the Broncos when he signed there. He does not belong to Colts fans, and seriously doubt he shares the same sense of loyalty. 
  • Along with this - and I'm really not intending to bash Peyton - but my guess is he will be playing next year. I don't think it will be in Denver, but he just doesn't seem the type that can walk away on his own. I could be wrong, but that's what I think. 
  • As for Cam Newton, I feel sorry for him. He is a great talent, but very immature. I thought he looked freaked out from the very beginning. And, please, spare me any racist crap. HE brought that up before the game, and his pouty fit afterward was uncalled for regardless of color, age or gender. He is arrogant and a poor sport. Why is it being racist to say that? Hopefully he will learn from this, though, because I would hate for this to harm what could be a great career and life otherwise.
  • I thought the two star players of the game were Von Miller and Demarcus Ware. Von definitely deserved the game MVP, and I was happy to see DW have a great game (as a former Cowboy).
  • As for the music... I thought Lady Gaga did a superb National Anthem before the game. Even as a not-overly-patriotic pacifist, it really moved me. The halftime show was fine by me too. I'm not very familiar with Coldplay, and I don't care for Beyonce at all, but Bruno Mars was good (though not very familiar with him either).
  • All in all, it was an entertaining game, nice commercials, good food and friends, and I have no complaints. Is there any one event that brings people in America together better than the Super Bowl? I think it's about so much more than sports. 

Monday, February 08, 2016

God bless ______________


I am still reading Jen Hatmakers disruptive little book 'Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity.' I haven't been blogging a lot about it. Partly because I've just been reading, but partly because, dang... it's pretty convicting stuff. I'm trying to soak it in. Very good reminders of a time that seems so long ago.

Here are some snippets from early on in the book:
  • Of the 6 billion people on planet Earth, about 1.2 billion live on twenty-three cents a day.
  • Half the world lives on less than two dollars and fifty cents a day.
  • The wealthiest one billion people average seventy dollars a day (This places you and me in the upper, upper, upper percentages of the global population).
  • If you make thirty-five thousand dollars annually, you are in the top 4 percent.
  • If you make fifty thousand dollars annually, the top 1 percent.
  • Someone dies of hunger every 3.6 seconds.
  • Last year twenty-two million people died of preventable diseases; ten million were children.
  • Twenty-seven million children and adults are trapped in slavery (sex slaves, labor slaves, child soldiers, and child slaves) because of economic crisis. More slaves exist today than every before in human history.
  • More than 143 million children in the developing world have been orphaned (equivalent to more than half the population of the United States).
  • In the last hour:
    • Over 1,625 children were forced to the streets by the death or abuse of an adult.
    • Over 115 children became prostitutes.
    • Over 66 children under the age of fifteen were infected with HIV.
  • Roughly 1 billion people in the world do not have suitable housing, and 100 million are entirely homeless.
  • 780 million people lack basic water sanitation, which results in disease, death, wastewater for drinking, and loss of immunity. *Americans consume twenty-six billion liters of bottled water a year.
  • We spend more annually on trash bags than nearly half the world spends on all goods combined.
  • Fifty-seven million children worldwide work every day instead of go to school.
  • Four out of five Americans are high school graduates.
  • The poorest one-fifth of the world owns 1 percent of the world's cars.
  • The richest one-fifth of the world owns 87 percent of the world's cars.
  • Roughly forty million people (the equivalent of about seven Jewish Holocausts) die annually from starvation, disease, and malnutrition.
  • 69 percent of US adults and 18 percent of children and adolescents are overweight or obese.
  • The United States makes up 4.5 percent of the global population, but we consume 20 percent of the world's oil.
  • We consume twenty million barrels of oil a day; next is China at just 9.2 million a day.
  • 20 percent of our imported oil comes from the Persian Gulf. We put military bases on two of their three Islamic holy sites, and when criticized, one US official replied that the United States "must have free access to the region's resources."
  • When a group of leaders from 172 developed nations begged US government leaders to explore intervention options for environmental standards via the Earth Summit, President George H.W. Bush said, "The American way of life is not negotiable."
"Brand America is in trouble. I ask you humbly: can you see why when Americans say democracy, the world hears greed? What seems like basic freedom to us sounds like vast consumption to everyone else. The tongue-in-cheek 'First World Problems' we joke about while lamenting, 'I just used my last Pandora skip for the hour, and the next song is even worse' is part and parcel of the image we are outsourcing to a suffering planet. We appear indulged and entitled and oblivious to global crises and our contribution to the disparity."

"It is easy to see how, when people are impoverished and desperate yet know we have everything they need in the cushions of our couches, a tyrannical leader can influence them toward our harm: 'I'll feed you and get you a gun. We'll fight greedy America.' We'll never be safe while we ignore the extreme poverty of everyone else. Some kill by violence, but we've let them suffer and die by neglect."

Whew... See what I mean? Some serious statistics. And, lest we get all high and mighty in our disdain for our country... she then drops this little bomb:
"Let's set aside what America is or is not giving and answer for ourselves: What are you doing? What am I doing?"

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Working a saturday


I am working at my regular facility today. Rarely do I work here on Saturdays. Normally, if I work a Saturday, it is at the Downtown location, or maybe Stellhorn. And I would probably be working DT today, but Sandi is also gone at LC; so KZ is DT, JR is at LC, and I am at D (instead of JR). One of those things.

I actually don't mind working DT every now and then. It's smaller, and everything is inside (it used to be a Kroger grocery store). I don't mind working at my own facility either. I have all my stuff here, and it's comfortable, but it takes me twice as long to get here than going to DT. Basically I drive from the clear south side of town to the clear north side of town to work and back every day. I think it's like 26 miles round trip (if I go the short route through town). I might be mis-calculating, but whatever.

So... I'm sitting here looking out my office window. Earlier I was thinking about writing some other stuff... but, nah. I'm good with this for now.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Just thinking


It seems like I haven't had a chance to sit and ponder/write things for awhile. So I'm trying to puke out a post on the fly here. Not like most of them are overly thought out in advance anyway, but.... Anyway... just some random thoughts running through my head on this day.
  • I read the other day where Mark Driscoll is starting a new church in Arizona. The article was pretty critical not only of him, but a couple of his former staff that are involved with this venture too. I really don't know what all has happened with Mark since he agreed to step down at Mars Hill. I do know that I have always felt like some people lumped me into being somewhat like him (mean/bully), and whether it is fair or not, I am glad I am not him. I do, however, wish I had his resolve. Because what has kept me out of ministry is basically my weakness and fear. Hopefully he has dealt with his issues, and good on him for overcoming (if he has).
  • I will say this, though, in regard to no longer being a pastor or ministry leader: I like not having to care about hurting people's feelings. Not that I think I have a license to be mean now, but I don't have to worry about who's watching over my shoulder or ready to stab me in the back. I simply don't care anymore.
  • At our small group last night (the one we participate in), the topic was how do we discern truth. Jane and I are both a bit frustrated with the format - which is perhaps more a 3dm-model issue than a personal thing with our group leaders. There is not really much opportunity for discussion, and we neither one feel like we fit very well with the group. There are some really, really good people in our small group, but I get the feeling most of them are pretty secure in their answers and possibly a little naive about society. For instance, we didn't know how to bring up the fact that, at least in our experience, you can't just point everyone to the bible to determine truth. Not that we don't believe the bible is true, but we know enough that it's NOT truth to a lot of people, and even with people who do believe it, there are valid points on opposing sides of a multitude of issues. I don't think truth is something you can just determine you're going to find in a 30-minute session. Moses wandered around in the desert for 40 years and never fully realized it - and God was leading him the entire time. Anyway, maybe it's more of a frustration with those who want to give simple answers to complicated questions than anything.
  • Another thing I've been wondering about lately is the place of "popularity" in ministry (popular music, books, speakers, trends, etc). I was talking with a friend about Shane Claiborne this morning. This person knew of him, but said something like, "Man, he's kind of fallen off the face of the earth." I was a little stunned, because I still hear and read about him quite often. The fact is, he isn't as "popular" as he once was. Kind of like, if' you're just doing mundane, ordinary, everyday things... well, you're just a nobody. Now, I'm not knocking this person I was talking to; he may not even think that. But in our celebrity culture, that seems to be the norm inside the church as well as outside it. So, it's kind of given me a desire to seek out some of the older authors I use to read, or even friends who do everyday ministry in the real world. The Eugene Petersons, Wendell Berrys, Henri Nouwens, Brennan Mannings.... (I suppose they're all popular in many ways too. Argh)...
I dunno.... Just thinking.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Dreams


I only occasionally remember my dreams, or even that I dreamed. However, I've had some real doozies in the last week or so. They were very vivid while I was dreaming, and I they were still with me the next morning.

Two days in a row I had strange dreams involving kids hanging all over me. They kept wanting to climb on me, or latch onto me, or put their arm around me. It was driving me nuts (in the dream). They just would not give me any space, and they wouldn't listen to me. That was followed up by dreams with small children who were misbehaving and not listening to me.

I have no idea what the children had to do with it, but I suppose these dreams signaled some type of control issues on my part.

On another night I was dreaming about one of the owners of the company I work for, and his wife. They live in Michigan, and are probably in their mid-late 60's or so, yet in my dream they also owned a club for musicians in Fort Wayne. It was crazy, because not only could I not believe they were involved with the local music scene, but they drove down every night to work at the club. I have no idea what that dream means.

On the heels of that came a dream where I was attending a wedding in an unfamiliar place, but when I got there most of the people were relatives on my mom's side of the family. Oddly enough, I had no clue who the bride and groom were. What was not so odd about the dream was that, as has been the case for me in many dreams (and a couple times in real life), the preacher hadn't shown up for the wedding and they wondered if I could officiate the ceremony.

There were a lot of strange elements - like giant poisonous snakes, a kangaroo chasing me on a bicycle, and a big bed in the middle of the area where they were going to be married. Of course, once again, there were a bunch of kids that I had to keep shewing off the bed.

Incidentally, I agreed to perform the ceremony. I rode my bike to my parents house (apparently) and had my "ministers bible" there, and it had sample ceremonies in it (or something). So I really didn't have a problem with doing the service.

So............... there ya go. I don't know what to make of all this weirdness. There were also a couple former church people involved in several of the dreams, but I'd rather not think or talk about them.

You know... as I type this... it just occurred to me that I started taking a bit of apple cider vinegar around the time I began to have these vivid dreams. I wonder if that has anything to do with it? Hmmm....

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Stunned passion (?)


I started reading Jen Hatmaker's book 'Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity.' This is actually an expanded and updated version of her originally published book in 2009. This will be the first thing I've read from her. I'm thinking she's around my daughter's age, and seems to be writing from a Shane Claiborne type vein. Plus I kind of like how the book is set up. It has "phases," and within each phase are 4-5 really short chapter-like things. Carrie read it and recommended it to Jane, and Jane highly recommended it - said it was one of the better books she's read in awhile. So... here we go.

I didn't get very far into it (there is a forward, acknowledgements, and TWO introductions) before I stopped reading and just pondered a couple things I'd underlined.

On p. 5 is this gem:
"I am still stunned by my capacity to spin Scripture, see what I wanted, ignore what I didn't, and use the Word to defend my life rather than define it."

Oh... ouch. It's so tempting to read something like that and immediately think of 'other' people this fits. Especially in the hyper-political period we are presently in - everyone seems able to twist God's "will" (and Word) to back their favored candidate or cause. However, as I let it sink in... dang... I think even *I* am guilty. So, I think I'm going to think on that some more. This book could take me awhile to read, and that might be a good thing.

The only other thing I underlined as yet - in the first 21 pages - was this short-but-dangerous prayer she uttered at the beginning of her "interruption": 

"God, raise up in me a holy passion."

Whew, I was actually just talking about passion with someone yesterday morning. We were discussing how someone our age could decide to start work on a Phd; or how missionaries keep on going well past retirement age. We both kind of acknowledged a lack of burning passion at the moment (which seems to be what's missing). And, quite honestly, I'm not at all sure I'm ready to pray this prayer just yet. It's a rather sobering thought.

So, again, this may be slow going. But I kind of like it.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Authority in preaching/teaching


Lately I've been thinking about the place of authority in preaching and/or teaching. I have the opportunity to hear a variety of speakers at our Sunday worship gatherings, as well as other places. I am certainly not trying to knock anyone - we all have different styles - and I was never what I would consider a great speaker either. However, in my opinion...

...speaking "AS" an authority seems to be completely different than speaking "FROM A PLACE OF" authority.

I recently heard a sermon that, while it sounded good, and a lot of people thought it was really good, I was a little more... skeptical (see, I'm not just cynical). The speaker shared biblical references, but then he seemed to back up - or prove - all of his points from his own life. In a seemingly subtle way I felt like he was claiming the events of his life as the authority behind the truth of Scripture. I sense this now and then. People speak as an authority because they have lived out a biblical truth.

Now, it may be true that no one is more of an authority on their own life then themselves. However, I'd like to think that Scripture is Truth APART from our life experience. Yes, you may have life experiences that illustrate biblical truth, but that is not what deems it truth.

One thing I'd like to think I learned as I matured in my preaching was that it's easy to sound like an authority when everything is going well in your life. It's another thing to preach from a place of humility when nothing seems to be working out (in a worldly manner anyway). The truth of Scripture should not be diminished by our LACK of experience anymore than personal experience proves it.

Not to pick on young people, because they certainly aren't the only ones who do it, but I wish someone had figured out a way how to teach me sooner rather than later how to better handle the authority of Scripture. How to see IT as the authority, rather than myself. How foolish it is to think I "have it figured out," only to discover later that maybe I didn't have a clue what I was talking about.

Anyway, I guess my point is, I sense a trend among some young-ish preachers/teachers who seem to believe their lives hold the authority with which to preach (ie. being a preacher gives them some kind of authority), rather than what I believe is a healthier respect for the authority of God's Word itself. It makes no difference if I understand it or am able to follow it. It is what it is, so to speak.

I dunno, maybe it comes down to trusting the Holy Spirit; or trusting Its ability to read us, rather than our ability to read it. Meh... whatever.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Jane's trip and fws party


A couple of events that happened last week:

Jane spent a couple days at my parent's house last week. I think my mom was needing someone to talk to, and she had been wanting to start clearing out their store room for some time. So the two of them spent basically all day Thursday going through pile after pile of old ...things. I don't think they cleared near enough space to make it an additional bedroom just yet, but it was a great start. Jane arrived their around noon Wednesday, and left to come back home around noon Friday. She also had time to visit her brother Mark, Tim & Elizabeth, and coffee Friday morning at the old Youngren building.

On Saturday night we had the annual FWS holiday party (with spouses included). We had supper at Granite City, then most everyone went to JK O'Donnell's afterwards for drinks and conversation. Those attending were: Kyle & Amber (and Brylee), Drew & Carrie, Karen (and Scott joined us at JK's), Sandi & Rob, Kendra & Tom, Colin & his gf, John & Robin, and Jane & myself. Everyone but Kyle & Amber and Sandi & Rob went to JK's. I had the meatloaf for supper and Jane had the Adult Mac & Cheese. Next year I need to get something else. It was a good time though.

The weather was fairly nice all weekend. It was in the mid-upper fifties both days. Saturday was sunny, but it was overcast and a little rainy Sunday. It looks like Spring should be right around the corner right now, but that's probably wishful thinking.

Now it's on to a new week; and a new month! We will see what it has in store for us...

Saturday, January 30, 2016

New toys/tools



I picked up this table saw, band saw, and drill press recently. A storage tenant is trying to get rid of things, and he was also late on his payments, so I traded him 2 months of rent for these 3 items.

I was actually planning on buying a table saw this year with the money I got from Christmas. I felt fortunate to stumble onto these because I got all three for what a new table saw would have cost. So it was beneficial not only to the guy who sold them, but me as well.

They're not new by any means, but they're also not ancient. I tried them all out and they work fine. Now I need to make something... Hmm, where to start? I do have quite a stockpile of pallets at work, and Drew Carrie gave me a pallet book for Christmas, so maybe I'll pick something from that.

One thing I've always wished I had done when younger was to learn a trade. I think everyone should learn some sort of trade - if nothing else - just to have something to fall back on or to pay the bills or even just as a hobby. I've also always thought that if I had it to do over I would go to luthier school and learn to make guitars and other wooden instruments. I would love having my own shop and being able to create things all day.

The tools fit in my garage, but it's not really big enough to make a sufficient work space. Someday, if we stay in this house, I can envision taking the carpet out of the rec room in the basement and turning that into a wood shop. It would be perfect right at the bottom of the stairs, and I could put ventilation fans in a couple windows. But... you know... that's just me dreaming. :)

So, this is something that happened this week, and who knows where it could lead. Probably nowhere, but you never know.

Friday, January 29, 2016

The fool who won't give up


Today I will cover the 11th and final chapter in Michael Frost's insightful little book 'Jesus the Fool: The Mission of the Unconventional Christ.' The title of this chapter is "Jesus, The Fool Who Won't Give Up." As you may be able to guess, 'loyalty as foolishness' is the emphasis here. Some of the nuggets...

"It takes a fool to live out that dogged, unrelenting loyalty even to those who continually reject them."

"To remain loyal to the ones we love and allow them the freedom to reject that love allows the potential to be made a fool of."

"This is the kind of foolishness we often see in the man called Jesus. He is so loyal, so devoted, so unshakable that it is embarrassing. He just won't give up."

----------------------

"Interestingly, it has been my experience that those who seem to run from God the fastest are often the ones who feel the most pursued."

"Jesus is like the hound before which Francis Thompson fell (author of 'The Hound of Heaven'). His relentless, dogged, unquenchable love for us is so loyal that invariably he will track us down. By this I don't mean that we have no choice, that faith in Jesus is a foregone conclusion. His love is so devoted that he allows us the choice to reject it. And this is what makes Jesus a fool. When everyone else has deserted us, the Fool remains unshakable."

----------------------  

Nowhere is this loyalty more poignantly presented than in Jesus' anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane. After his last meal with his closest compatriots, Jesus, perhaps anxious and fidgety, couldn't sit still. He knew his final hours were approaching. So he took the night air with is disciples down through the Kidron valley to a garden containing olive trees east of where the current Jericho road-bridge lies. It was a favorite retreat of Jesus and his disciples. There in the solitude of the quiet evening, Jesus emotionally fell apart. He disappeared to a darkened corner of the garden with his closest friends - James, his brother John, and Peter - and there he broke down and cried, inviting the prayers of his companions. But it was late and they clearly didn't share their master's sense of apprehension. They fell asleep on him during his darkest moment.

Alone and frightened, lying face down on the ground, Jesus sobbed, "I'm so overwhelmed with sorrow that I could die." Clearly this was a man beside himself with anguish. And here lies the key to understanding the loyalty of the fool called Jesus. It seems to me that it was here in this pretty garden that Jesus' faith was most sorely tested. And he almost cracked! He was filled with fear and uncertainty and for this one moment his resolve was almost shattered.

You might find it distressing to imagine Jesus falling apart at the seams, but for me this is inspirational. If we imagine Jesus to be always perfectly in control, to know all, to see all, to be steely in his resolve and unflinching in his mission, we can never believe that such things as fear or uncertainty were part of his experience. But Gethsemane reminds us that they were. And the fact that they were fills me with courage.

If Jesus was always completely certain of the outcome of his life... then where is there room for faith?... And Gethsemane would not make sense. The events in that garden can only be sensible if there was an element of risk involved. Faith is risk. And at Gethsemane, Jesus showed he was faced with a terrible task -- the offering of his own life.

The fact that he was prepared to, in spite of his fears, go through with his commitment to be sacrificed for our inadequacy makes the cross the supreme symbol of faith. Not only do we place our faith in it, but we celebrate Jesus' faith that drove him to it. Gethsemane is proof that Jesus was undoubtedly foolish.

-----------------

This reminds me of a story seen recently on television during the telecast of the British sheepdog trials... A shepherd has to instruct his dog to complete a series of maneuvers with a group of three or four sheep. The dog has to round them into a pen or move them across to the other side of a paddock. Each of the dogs is time on efficiency and speed.

During one championship, the winning dog and his shepherd/master appeared on camera to accept the trophy, and the television reporter stuck his microphone in the owner's mouth and asked him about how he felt at this his greatest moment. The characteristically taciturn Yorkshireman responded self-effacingly with nods and grunts. Then the interviewer pointed out that there was a tragic story behind this dog that had just won the British championship and asked the man to tell us about it. The craggy-faced old shepherd broke down as he told the tale.

It turned out that the old man had nursed this dog on his kitchen table for weeks and weeks after it had broken both its legs and had a hip replacement. So you can see how winning the British championship in sheepdog trialing was quite a monumental effort. But the interviewer pressed him further. What had happened to the dog?

And so the dog's owner repeated the story of how he had ordered his dog to sit by the shed until he returned from mending a fence on top of a nearby hill. His dog was so obedient that, once told to stay, he would never budge from that spot. As the shepherd worked on the fence, he heard the dog down by the shed begin to whine and squeal. He wondered what the problem was but went on with his work. Soon, he noticed the dog glancing anxiously behind the shed at something out of the shepherd's sight. The dog was looking longingly at his master, so the old man decided to wander down and see what was happening behind the shed. On his way down, he realized too late that one of his farm hands was driving a tractor out from behind the shed and heading slowly for the dog. Unable to see the animal and unable to hear the shepherd's screams, the farm worker drove right over the dog, crushing his hind legs and hips.

Tears were streaming down his lined face as the Yorkshireman retold his sad story. Because the dog had been ordered to stay, he remained in place even if that meant allowing a tractor to crush him to death. In return for the dog's remarkable loyalty, the owner could not bear to have him put down. And so he nursed him on his own kitchen table.

"Jesus allowed this world to crush him to death out of loyalty to God and to his people. Here is the Fool at his most powerful."

------------------------

"If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it." (Mark 8:34-35)

------------------------

Well, this was a very good read. Not good like I usually like my books - short chapters and with pages I can turn (as opposed to ebook) - but it was good in that it was simply about Jesus. There were no "church" ideas, or discipleship processes, it was Jesus. Just Jesus. Very refreshing. I'm glad I downloaded it.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Jesus' offer to the foolhardy


We are near the end of Michael Frost's book 'Jesus the Fool: The Mission of the Unconventional Christ.' Chapter 10 is entitled "Jesus' Offer To The Foolhardy." It's an interesting chapter where Frost outlines Jesus' description of our limitations, as well as his path to rise above them. Frost likens this journey to "snakes becoming dragons."

Some of the main highlights I took from this chapter:
Harold Kusher is a rabbi who served the Temple Israel in Massachusetts. When asked by LIFE magazine what he thought was the meaning of life, he said he believed it is to be partners in creation with God. He illustrated this idea by telling the reporter that the Hebrews often ask why God didn't create trees that grow loaves of bread. Wouldn't that have made things much easier? But no, God created wheat so that humans may sow it, and tend it, and water it, and harvest it, grind it, kneed it, bake it and turn it into bread. In other words, God delights in people becoming partners in creativity and production....

...Kushner's perspective that we are partners with God in creation, that we enter into a cooperative arrangement, allows for life to include both human and divine effort.

"I would rather walk shoulder-to-shoulder with God, knowing that life is far more satisfying, productive, and therapeutic with him than without him."

Interesting notes on Jeffrey Dahmer - the serial killer from Milwaukee:
Dahmer appeared to be capable of the most horrific and unthinkable acts of indecency ever perpetuated by an individual. I can remember seeing excerpts of his trial in which the prosecuting lawyer raised the interesting discovery that Dahmer had not committed any acts of atrocity, nor had he even committed a misdemeanor against any local ordinances, during a two-year period from 1982-1984. The prosecutor wanted to know why that was the case. Dahmer responded from the witness box that during that period he was living with his grandmother and going to church every week. He was also reading his Bible regularly.

But the prosecutor pressed him. He wanted to know what happened in 1984 to trigger the worst phase of his behavior. And Dahmer's response was chilling. He simply said, "In 1984, my compass broke." ...What Dahmer meant was that his conscience suddenly ceased to function. He no longer knew the difference between right and wrong. What causes such dysfunction I can't begin to imagine.

"We all have a built-in compass that keeps us aware of the difference between right and wrong. When it breaks, we become capable of inordinate evil."

----------------------------

"This is the first step in becoming a partner with God: being prepared to be more realistic about your own inadequacy."

----------------------------

"We deserve to be cast from God's sight because of our sin, but based on his unquenchable love for us he creatively found another way. If you want to become one of God's partners, the only way is to recognize his grace in allowing Jesus to die in order to set you free from the penalty normally imposed on a sinful humankind."

Bono's description of the scandal of grace:
...at the center of all religions is the idea of karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics, every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It's clear to me that karma is at the very heart of the universe. I'm absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea of grace to upend all that "as you reap, so you will sow" stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done a lot of stupid stuff.

"The cross causes some intellectual problems to those struggling to find faith; it also seems to arouse the resistance of even the most faithful. I think it has something to do with our refusal to accept forgiveness at so great a cost. If I know I am forgiven and all that it cost me was the life of a single goat, I can't see any reason to resist. But when the price of forgiveness is the life of the most wonderful and whimsical human being ever to walk the earth, it is harder to take."

-------------------------

If you truly desire to be a partner with God, you are called to believe two apparently contradictory ideas. First, you are a snake, a sinner, incapable of finding God's favor. Second, you can fly, knowing the extraordinary worth with which God sees you and on the basis of which he forgives you. In other words, you are a dragon.

These two opposing concepts, held in tension, make up the core of the Christian faith. There will be times in our lives when we appear to be more keenly aware of one concept than the other.